Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has branded Corriere dello Sport’s “Black Friday” headline “the worst front page” he has ever seen and offered support to Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku.
Roma defender Smalling, who is on loan from United, and Inter Milan forward Lukaku were pictured either side of the headline on Thursday’s front page, which was previewing Friday’s clash between the Serie A sides.
The former Red Devils team-mates criticised the publication on Thursday while Solskjaer says it is “incredible” that the newspaper decided to go ahead with the headline.
“When you see that paper you say: ‘Wow. Really? Is that possible?’. It’s the worst front page I’ve ever seen. It has to be,” said the Norwegian at his press conference on Friday.
“Of course we have been in touch with Chris, just so he knows that we’ll back him and we support him, and with Romelu as well.
“Wow, that’s incredible – and at least we don’t see that here… that has to be stamped down (on).”
The cover has attracted widespread criticism and the players had their say on Twitter on Thursday evening.
Smalling wrote: “Whilst I would have liked to spend the day focusing on the big game tomorrow, it is important that I acknowledge that what occurred this morning was wrong and highly insensitive.
“I hope the editors involved in running this headline take responsibility and understand the power they possess through words, and the impact those words can have.”
Lukaku, who left United in the summer, called it the “dumbest of headlines”, adding: “You guys keep fuelling the negativity and the racisme (sic) issue (…) instead of talking about the beautiful game that’s going to be played at San Siro between two great clubs.
“Education is key (…) you guys of corriere dello sport should do a better job at that.”
Corriere dello Sport defended Thursday’s headline with a front page on Friday which translated as: “Who are you calling racist? Lynching of a newspaper that for a century has defended liberty and equality.”
Anti-discrimination organisation Fare network condemned the front page and its executive director Piara Powar branded it “at the very least clumsy”.
He told the PA news agency: “Part of the problem we have with Italy and countries like that at the moment is people do not know where to draw a line.
“They don’t know what is the right or wrong thing to do, what is appropriate or inappropriate and what might be racism and what might be acceptable.
“We have been told by our colleagues in Italy that in fact inside the paper the story is about how these are old colleagues from United and have both been standing up to racism, but the front cover is at the very least clumsy.
“We would argue this is the sort of thing that fuels racism – the way in which Corriere dello Sport has made a point of their race.”
Roma and AC Milan, Inter’s co-tenants at San Siro, have banned Corriere dello Sport from both clubs’ training facilities for the rest of 2019.
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P